Introduction to the Seven Teachings that the Baal Shem Tov delivered in Gan Eden on his Birthday, Chai Elul 5652 (18921)

24. Believing G‑d and understanding G‑d

Chassidus demands that a person should exercise his understanding even in his faith in G‑d. This is apparent from its extensive discussion of the phrase, Da es Elokei avicha — “Know the G‑d of your father.”2

These are the words of David HaMelech to Shlomo: “And now, Shlomo my son, know the G‑d of your father....” Surely he should have said, “Believe in the G‑d of your father.” Why, moreover, did he say “the G‑d of your father,” instead of simply saying “G‑d”?

In fact David HaMelech was not the first to use such an expression; Yaakov Avinu had already addressed G‑d as “The G‑d of my father Avraham and the G‑d of my father Yitzchak.”3

This expression signifies the faith that children hear and accept from their parents; “The G‑d of my father” means “the G‑dliness that I have received from my parents.”

Hence, when David HaMelech says, “Know the G‑d of your father,” he is saying in effect: “The G‑dliness that you have received from your parents must be infused with understanding” — for certain aspects of G‑dliness can be understood.

This understanding of G‑dliness clarifies one’s faith, making it pure. If a person’s faith extends to include that which can be understood, he not only loses the mitzvah of understanding G‑dliness, but in addition, his is not a pure faith, for it contains an admixture of things that could be understood.

This, then, is the warning of David HaMelech: “And now, Shlomo my son, know the G‑d of your father.” That is to say: one ought to toil in order to understand G‑dliness.

25. My G‑d, or only the G‑d of my father?

In the first of his Asarah Maamaros, the Shelah comments on the verse, Zeh keili v’anveihu, Elokei avi vaaromemenhu — “This is my G‑d and I shall glorify Him, the G‑d of my father and I shall exalt Him.”4

The Shelah explains: “When I am at the stage of Zeh keili — i.e., when ‘This is my G‑d, on account of my own understanding and knowledge [of Him]’ — then it is appropriate to say v’anveihu, for in the Holy Tongue, that word (וְאַנְוֵהוּ) is a composite of אֲנִי וָהוּ,5 meaning that I and He cleave together, as it were, since this knowledge [of mine] is understood in my heart. When, however, my knowledge stems not from my understanding but only from received tradition, so that ‘He is the G‑d of my father,’ then it is appropriate to say vaaromemenhu (‘and I shall exalt Him’), meaning that He is exalted and removed beyond my grasp, and I am distant from Him [in that my faith subsists only] in the depths of my heart.”

G‑dliness may thus be known in either of two ways.

The first is the mode of Zeh keili — “This is my G‑d.”

The word zeh (“this”) indicates a state of revelation. It is used in this sense in reference to the Messianic era, as in the verse, Ve’amar bayom hahu: Hinei Elokeinu zeh — “On that day [Israel] will say, ‘Indeed, this is our G‑d [in Whom we have hoped]....’”6 Since at that time G‑dliness will be revealed, the verse uses the phrase Elokeinu zeh (“This is our G‑d”) to indicate the state of revelation, just as one might point at something and say Zeh hadavar — “This is the thing.” So too in the phrase Zeh keili — “This is my G‑d”: for the speaker, G‑dliness is something that may be pointed at.

The second way in which G‑dliness may be known is the mode of Elokei avi — “The G‑d of my father.”

This phrase implies that the speaker neither knows nor grasps what G‑dliness is all about. He has only heard from his father that it exists, and this he believes with a perfect faith to the point of literal self-sacrifice.

26. Beyond intellect

In fact, as everyone knows, faith transcends intellect. The various modes of intellect may be divided into two comprehensive categories — revealed intellect7 and hidden intellect.8 And faith must be applied to that which soars even beyond the reach of the hidden intellect.

To be more explicit: Faith is in place only in those reaches of G‑dliness that one cannot grasp by intellectual means. As for those levels of G‑dliness where one’s intellect does suffice, every individual Jew is obligated to exercise his mind in order to comprehend them.

One aspect of comprehension is called, for a particular reason, emunah — faith. This epithet is borrowed, because this kind of faith is of only temporary duration — a temporary faith. Until a pupil grasps the reasoning with which his teacher explains him a topic in the Gemara, he believes in what he has been told. This belief is in fact only temporary, because as soon as his mind masters the reasoning that has been explained to him, this temporary belief becomes independent intellect.

27. Exalting the unknown

In this light we can now understand the verse — “This is my G‑d and I shall glorify Him, the G‑d of my father and I shall exalt Him” — as interpreted by the Shelah.

When one’s perception of G‑dliness is at the level of zeh, i.e., when it is attained as the result of intellectual exertion, then in part it is grasped intellectually, and in part — insofar as it transcends intellect — it is subject to faith. When this is the case, then he may say v’anveihu, (“I shall glorify Him”), implying that “I and He” (ani vaHu) become utterly united.

The other phrase, Elokei avi (“The G‑d of my father”), implies faith. I.e., when a person’s perception of G‑dliness is based on faith alone, and he does not exert his mind in its comprehension, believing instead what his father has told him, then even though this too is a good thing, it is no more than the level of perception denoted by the word vaaromemenhu (“I shall exalt Him”), which implies that G‑dliness remains elevated beyond his reach.

28. Only in the depths of my heart

It is essential that one carefully study and understand the deep meaning that lies in the words with which the Shelah explains the words v’anveihu (“I shall glorify Him”) and vaaromemenhu (“I shall exalt Him”).

On the former the Shelah writes: “I and He cleave together, as it were, since this knowledge [of mine] is understood in my heart.” Because this knowledge of G‑dliness was attained through intellectual means, it becomes embedded in one’s heart, and one thereby becomes united with G‑dliness.

On the latter the Shelah writes: “He is exalted and removed beyond my grasp, and I am distant from Him [in that my faith subsists only] in the depths of my heart.”

29. The key to a solution

If a person has compassion upon himself, and thinks deeply into these two concepts as expounded by the Shelah so that they become integrated in his head and heart, and realizes that he stands at the crossroads of being either one who cleaves to G‑dliness or (G‑d forbid) one who is distant from G‑dliness, a secret cry will no doubt break forth from his heart. He will entreat the Almighty to have mercy on him, and to bring about such circumstances that will show him the path that will enable him to grow near to G‑dliness.

More explicitly: The content of his request is that G‑d, the Prime Cause, engineer a reason that will induce him to start studying Chassidus, and to appoint himself a guide who will set him on the chassidic path of avodah.

30. Purim in Menton

My father spent the winter of 5672 (1912) in Menton, in France.

The chassidim who came to spend Purim there included baalei haskalah and baalei avodah such as the celebrated R. Yaakov Mordechai [Bespalov] of Poltava, and magnates such as the well-known R. Shmuel Gourary. For the seudah of Purim they were joined by a number of wealthy Polish chassidim — such as R. Aharon Wiener of Lodz and his son R. Binyamin, and R. Zisskind Bialer of Warsaw — and a number of wealthy Volhynian chassidim, such as the Hornstein brothers of Kiev. The farbrengen of that Purim was a powerful one. My father spoke at length, and in a spirit of spiritual self-revelation.9

One teaching from that occasion is relevant to our present subject.

In the midst of a variety of topics, my father described the dealings that preceded the Giving of the Torah.

31. A chassid needs a middleman

“Concerning the gift of the Torah,” my father said, “Moshe Rabbeinu was a middleman10 between G‑d and Israel — between a father (‘Our Father, merciful Father’11) and His children (‘You are sons to the L-rd your G‑d’12).

“Everyone knows what a middleman is. You all know what his work consists of” — here my father addressed the businessmen present — “and how vital it is to the whole structure of commerce. The big manufacturers and wholesalers sell their merchandise to their own middlemen, who in turn sell it to other merchants. Even when a customer applies directly to a manufacturer, the goods are given to him on the account of the middleman. His services are needed by both the buyer and the seller.

“Fulltime scholars13 in general, and certainly chassidim, likewise realize how necessary are the services of a middleman. And here, by the way, when I say fulltime scholars, I am referring to those Torah students who are not chassidim. Every Torah scholar has his own middleman, the person who brought him to the state of being a ben-Torah. It may have been, for example, a good friend of his, or the local rav, or his rosh yeshivah. At any rate, every Torah scholar has his middleman, the individual who secures him a place in the Torah.

“A chassid too has his middleman, the person who sets him up in a spot illuminated by the Torah.”

32. A teacher and a friend

“My father (the Rebbe Maharash) once gave me the following answer to a question that I asked him at yechidus: ‘Our Sages advise us, Aseh lecha rav ukneh lecha chaver — “Provide yourself with a teacher and acquire for yourself a friend.”14 These two functions are interrelated. If one has no teacher, then the friend is no friend; if one has no friend, then one has no teacher. Another thing: Provide yourself with a teacher implies that this is to be done as an act of self-subordination;15 acquire for yourself a friend implies that the friend must be a person with whom one’s heart connects. But in any event one must have a friend, for it is he who will guide one as to what [questions in avodah] to ask of one’s teacher, and it is he who will help one translate the teacher’s directives into actual realization.’”

33. A melody of spiritual yearning

As soon as my father (the Rebbe Rashab) had completed his account of the answer that my grandfather (the Rebbe Maharash) had given him at yechidus, he began a moving melody of dveikus, and all those present joined him in its strains of spiritual yearning. Some of them, including R. Yaakov Mordechai and R. Shmuel Gourary, wept quietly. It was an outburst from the heart, sudden and wordless — the kind of thing that often happens at a chassidisher farbrengen: when one hears words that proceed from the speaker’s heart, especially if that person is a Nasi, an overview of one’s own spiritual condition flits through one’s head and heart, and one weeps.

34. Middos born of toil

R. Chanoch Hendel [Kurnitzer] was a man with a warm heart. Everything he did came straight from the heart, whether it was a weekday, or Shabbos, or Yom-Tov. Every season throughout the year pulsated to the rhythm of that same warm heart. If it was Pesach, then his heart animated his search for chametz, his baking of shemurah, and his reading of the Haggadah; if it was Shavuos, he put all his heart into the reading of the Tikkun; it goes without saying that the same was true of his reading of Kinos and Selichos; his heart was alive in his observance of Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos, and so too with all the festivals.

It would never suffice to say that he had a kind heart or a noble character. In his case, the goodness of his heart and the nobility of his character traits were the result of toil, qualities transformed and elevated by avodah, and this exertion was born of self-subordination, not of intellectual perception.

In fact R. Chanoch Hendel’s knowledge of the learned literature of Chassidus was quite limited. Even in his later years, when he had already lived in Lubavitch (apart from certain interruptions) for over forty years, his grasp of the theoretical side of Chassidus was not at all extensive.

When it came to matters of avodah, however, his knowledge knew no bounds. He remembered what he had heard from my great-grandfather,16 from my grandfather17 and from my father,18 as well as teachings on the subject of avodah that he had heard from elder chassidim.

R. Chanoch Hendel had known a great number of the Alter Rebbe’s chassidim, and had been brought up in a fine chassidisher environment. Though he had been born and bred in a village, it was a village that boasted chassidim of sound understanding. Besides, it was near a chassidic town called Plieshchenitz, a fact that had a considerable influence on his education and upbringing.

35. The spiritual lifestyle of chassidim

We have had occasion to remark that chassidim nowadays have somewhat forgotten the ways of chassidim (darchei hachassidim), as distinct from the ways of Chassidus (darchei haChassidus).

In the area of education and guidance, one element of the spiritual lifestyle of chassidim (darchei hachassidim) was the fact that the elder chassidim in every town and village felt that it was their responsibility to educate and guide the younger members of the brotherhood, and the latter, for their part, were devoted heart and soul to their elders.

This devotion and self-imposed discipline was wonderful to behold: it was the manifestation of a deepseated self-effacement. No matter if a young chassid exerted himself in the study of nigleh and Chassidus, applied himself earnestly and often to the avodah of prayer, and as a matter of course devoted the whole of his Shabbos to the study of Torah and to the “service of the heart,” — yet with all that he effaced himself utterly before an elder chassid. Every teaching that he heard from his mouth, and every aspect of his conduct that he observed, was absorbed in his head and in his heart. There it duly left its mark — correcting flaws, and helping him become a chassid worthy of the name.19

36. Living in spiritual chaos

These days, so-called chassidisher yungeleit become ostensible chassidim all by themselves. They are their own educators and their own guides, so one can readily gather what kind of a sorry education this is, what kind of a sorry guidance this is. Some of today’s chassidim have made peace with the traditional enemies of chassidim — such as hypocrisy, falsehood, gossip-mongering, evil speech, pride, insolence and unkindness — except that they cloak them in an external garb that is supposedly chassidic.

Please don’t take offense at the fact that I am calling these things by their true names, but there are times when one must divulge the truth, and pray for mercy — that these people should have compassion on themselves and realize what kind of a spiritual chaos they are living in.

Some of today’s chassidim, including even some who studied in the chassidic yeshivos, are being swept along with the wave of the alien doctrine whose name is chitzoniyus.20

37. Accepting the yoke of a guide

The alien doctrine that one can be a chassid by means of external elements of Chassidus — such as attending a farbrengen or a chassidic celebration, observing a chassidic anniversary,21 dressing like a chassid and singing a chassidic melody — has destroyed numerous souls among Chabad chassidim. Many, indeed, have drowned in the depths of evil, painful though it may be for me to tell the unfortunate truth. But this difficulty cannot be averted: the situation must be described as it is.

Some of these people were brought up in a chassidic environment, in devout chassidic homes, with pious chassidic teachers. As a result, their exterior appears to be chassidic — but their interior is void of Torah, void of the awe of Heaven, void of positive character traits.

The reason for all of this is the lack of discipline. From their earliest childhood such people did not accept the yoke of having an educator and a guide. They educated and brought up themselves, and from this there sprouted this species of wild fruit, with a pretty, shiny exterior and a decaying interior.

38. Self-restraint vs. misplaced asceticism

Let me tell you about a certain episode.

One of the regular study sessions that I had with my father was a shiur of Gemara. It was solid and penetrating, and included the commentaries of a number of Rishonim. (The passages of Aggadah in the Gemara, by the way, were likewise given profound treatment.)

In the course of our study of Tractate Sotah,22 when we came to the subject of the affliction of perushin, my father first pointed out that the Mishnah identifies this subject as an affliction.23 He then discussed in detail the defects inherent in the avodah of perishus (asceticism). Perishus, he explained, is not relevant to that which is forbidden, nor to that which one does not need, nor to that which is both permissible and necessary.

That which is permissible and necessary ought to be done with avodah. This does not necessarily mean that one does the thing, for when one refrains from doing that which is not permissible, this is also accounted an activity of avodah, because it was one’s exertion in avodah that motivated one to refrain.

39. Taming your wild donkey

Avodah signifies that one should work on oneself, toiling until one becomes the definitive master over one’s own limbs, faculties and senses, as well as over the soul’s “garments” [i.e., its means of expression] — thought, speech and action. This entails having the last word over one’s intellective faculty, determining where to invest one’s mind; having the last word with respect to what one’s heart should want, determining what it should like and desire and what it should hate and despise; having the last word with respect to one’s sense of sight, hearing, smell and taste; and being the definitive master over one’s thought, speech and action.

The [Alter] Rebbe teaches that the very word avodah shares a root (עבד) with the adjective in the phrase, oros avudim — “tanned hides.” When one has to process and refine an animal hide, one is confronted with some really hard work, with a task that must proceed by certain graded stages. Another really hard job is the task of processing and refining oneself, in order to turn one’s own “wild young donkey of a man”24 into a man. This task too must proceed by certain graded stages, without haste, and with the greatest care that no flaw be overlooked, for the slightest flaw in one’s avodah can give rise to the greatest error or defect.

My father went on to explain the teaching of the Sages, that “when one passively25 refrains from sin, he is rewarded as though he had actively performed a mitzvah.” This refraining, he explained, is also activity, because it was the result of one’s avodah.

Perishus, the above-described kind of asceticism, is by contrast an affliction. Moreover, the Mishnah uses the plural form in referring to the “afflictions” (makos) of perushin, because both the person and the object are afflicted thereby: neither does the man become more of a man, nor is the object refined.

40. Internal consistency

My father next gave an extensive analysis of the seven kinds of perushim [enumerated in the Gemara]. He described in detail the manner of Torah study and avodah that characterizes each of them, pinpointing their respective flaws, and outlining the kind of avodah by which each of them is able — and obligated — to correct those flaws.

Tears appeared in my father’s eyes when we came to the statement of R. Nachman bar Yitzchak: “That which is hidden is hidden [from mortal eyes], and that which is revealed is revealed; [but to] the Great Court [everything is revealed, and it] will exact judgment over those who cloak themselves in tallisos [and project themselves as ascetics when in fact they are not].”26

Then, with bitter earnestness, my father said: “The avodah of even a genuine parush is pointless enough. How much more so is this true of one whose asceticism is no more than a cloak, one who makes an impression on others when he himself is in fact something quite different.”

In the language of chassidim such a person is called a chitzon. His exterior and his interior27 are two quite separate things: there may be something on the outside, but inside there is no content whatever.

The conclusion of the Gemara concerning hypocrites, i.e., chitzonim, and the comment of Rashi that “there are those who explain this [mention of Zimri28] as a reference to unchastity,” is painful indeed. It means that the Gemara is telling — and Rashi is spelling out — just what chitzoniyus can lead to.

It may well be that what I have said and recounted above is merely parenthetical — but it is vital to keep in mind that the kind of upbringing of young chassidim whereby they do not want to hear what an elder chassid has to say, leads to chitzoniyus and falsehood, and the young man in question grows up to be an old spiritual cripple.

41. Self-refinement

R. Chanoch Hendel’s kind heart and refined character were produced by toil; they were hammered into shape by the tireless avodah of self-subordination.29

He once said at a farbrengen: “So long as a leper is not healed of his malady, he is not allowed to approach the Beis HaMikdash. So long as a young chassid is not healed of his ugly character traits, he may not visit Lubavitch. One must not (G‑d forbid) contaminate G‑d’s Sanctuary, which is the Rebbe’s precincts.

“For ten years I studied Shaarei Teshuvah by Rabbeinu Yonah, Sefer Chareidim, Reishis Chochmah and Pokeiach Ivrim, as well as Iggeres HaTeshuvah dozens of times, and certain chapters of Derech Chaim — in order to scrape away my unworthy character traits and rid myself of bodily habituation. Only then, with the approval of a number of elder chassidim, did I first set out to visit the Rebbe in Lubavitch.”

Listen, young men, to what an old chassid tells about how he became a chassid. Here is a young man who for ten years labors at acquiring positive character traits, and throughout those ten years he does not travel to Lubavitch to see my great-grandfather30 — because he is ashamed to be seen by the Rebbe in his present spiritual state.

Now that’s a proper preparation for becoming a chassid.

42. Teaching a young conscript

The Ten Days of Penitence in the year 5654 (1893), when I was just starting with my new teacher, the Rashbatz, were rainy and somber. The weather too was doing its bit in fostering thoughts of teshuvah and spiritual stocktaking.

After Maariv on Monday, the eighth of Tishrei, my teacher remained to sit a while with three chassidim — R. Chanoch Hendel, and R. Aharon and R. Yekusiel of Dokshytz — while they discussed various topics in Chassidus, and exchanged a number of narratives.

After a couple of hours’ farbrengen R. Chanoch Hendel invited those present to accompany him to the room in which he lived, in one of the houses at the end of our courtyard. Everyone agreed, and they continued to farbreng for quite a few hours in a most elated and chassidisher frame of mind.

In the course of that session R. Chanoch Hendel said that he had heard from a celebrated chassid by the name of R. Herschel of Semilian that a person who does not suffer from dullness of the heart31 experiences shame in the presence of a tzaddik, and when he hears a vort of the kind that arouses men to self-improvement,32 he weeps,33 being aroused from within.

43. A fulltime soldier

My father sang for a long while, and then said: “My father (the Rebbe Maharash) says34 that to ‘provide yourself with a teacher’ is to be done as an act of self-subordination,35 as an act of kabbalas ol. This phrase means that whether or not one wants to do something, it should be done and must be done.

“When I was involved with the conscription office, my father told me that there were many kinds and modes of military service that should be applied — as a matter of necessity — to one’s divine service.

“A soldier is not an independent entity in his own right: his entire being and all his time are devoted to his service. A soldier is constantly a soldier: when he eats he is a soldier, when he walks down the street he is a soldier, when he speaks and even when he sleeps he is a soldier too. He goes to sleep a soldier and wakes up a soldier. Teaching someone to be a soldier is one of the hardest of jobs, and there are special people appointed to do it.

“Every chassid is a soldier, a servant of G‑d.

“The [Alter] Rebbe once said that it is an achievement of Chassidus that this principle applies also to those who are born of chassidic stock, and it is [therefore] easy to arouse them to accept the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Every chassid is a servant of G‑d, and every chassid has his guide who set him up in a spot that is illuminated by the Torah.”

44. Who needs a friend?

With that, my father began to sing a jolly melody, and a number of chassidim joined him in a dance that lasted quite some time.

He then said: “My father (the Rebbe Maharash) says that a person must have a friend,36 because a friend guides him as to what [questions in avodah] to ask of his teacher, and helps him translate the teacher’s directives into actual realization.

“For over 120 years now, thank G‑d, chassidim have had guides and mashpi’im and good friends.

“In about the year 5550 (1790), when the Mitteler Rebbe was about sixteen years old, the [Alter] Rebbe put him in charge of the guidance of the young chassidim. It was at that time that the Mitteler Rebbe encouraged these people to cultivate friendships.

“He explained: ‘When a person tells his friend of his spiritual ailment, or when one person sees a negative (or, G‑d forbid, an evil) attribute in another, and they discuss it, seeking means of becoming rid of the evil attribute or habit, then there are two Divine souls versus one animal soul. Accordingly, they succeed in rectifying whatever needed attention.’”

45. Mashpi’im and madrichim

“Since that time, it has been traditional for a chassid to have a guide, that is, a good friend, except that in the course of time — specifically, during the period that my grandfather (the Tzemach Tzedek) was Rebbe — he arranged in addition that the mashpi’im in the chassidic towns should be the guides.37 During the time of the Mitteler Rebbe, a good friend sufficed. In my grandfather’s time, however, when the Chabad chassidic community grew (May it continue to increase!), my grandfather added the arrangement whereby the mashpi’im in the chassidic towns should engage in the guidance of young chassidim. It often happened that my grandfather would issue a regimen of study and conduct for the young chassidim who came to consult him, and then, for a prescribed period, refer them to the elder mashpi’im for direction.

“These chassidisher friends and guides are the middlemen38 who have set up chassidim in a spot that is illuminated by the Torah, by the luminous Torah.”

46. A face-to-face transaction

“Moshe Rabbeinu was a good middleman and a clever one. The Torah was given to him, as the Gemara says, but he acted generously, and gave it to Israel.39

“He loved his fellow Jews, as we see from his wish, Mi yiten kol am HaShem nevi’im — ‘If only all of G‑d’s people would be prophets!’40

“Hence, even though the Torah was given to him, just as all the manufacturer’s merchandise is handed over to the middleman, he nevertheless wanted the seller — the Almighty — to speak to the customers; likewise, he wanted the customers — the Children of Israel — to speak to the seller.

“As the Torah says, Panim befanim diber HaShem imachem — ‘G‑d spoke with you face to face.’41 Rashi’s comment on this verse cites the Midrash: ‘Do not say that I am misleading you over a nonexistent item as a middleman does between the vendor and the purchaser, for the vendor himself is talking with you.’

47. How a mortal can “take” G‑d

“When Moshe Rabbeinu, whose own spiritual level is Chochmah of Atzilus, was down here in a physical body, he knew that a middleman cannot always enjoy the complete trust of his client. He therefore told the Jewish People to come along and speak to the vendor themselves.

“Concerning the Torah it is written, ‘It is Me Whom you are taking’42 — ‘As if [G‑d says] I had been sold together with it.’43 Atzmus, the very Essence of the Almighty, is infinitely exalted beyond man, yet Atzmus (as it were) says to man: ‘If you genuinely want to take Me, I permit you to do so — provided that your desire is genuine.’

“The means by which Atzmus can be taken, as it were, is the Torah. The Torah is G‑d’s wisdom and will. ‘He is wise, but not through a knowable wisdom;’44 ‘rather, He and His wisdom are one’45 — and that is why the Torah is the means by which Atzmus can be (as it were) taken.

“Businessmen too have an obligation to study Torah, except that it is limited to ‘one passage in the morning46 and one passage in the evening.’ For them, the main instrument through which they can (as it were) take Atzmus by means of the Torah, is the support of Torah scholars.”

48. Children of one’s choice

For the sake of completeness, I must interrupt for a moment, and mention a subject that came up when my father was in Wurzburg. Addressing certain chassidim47 at length on the third of Shvat, he explained the significance of supporting those who study Torah with the awe of G‑d, and in the spirit of Chassidus. He explained too that yeshivah students are actually the children of one’s choice.

On this subject my father said: “When it comes to one’s own children, one has no free choice. The free choice begins with their education, when one can choose to educate them according to the Torah, through teachers who are G‑d-fearing chassidim.

“A chassidisher teacher implants the awe of Heaven in a child’s heart in such a way that ‘all the winds in the world’48 will never uproot it. Into the child’s heart he grafts the light of Chassidus that will forever nourish the Jewish spark within him. Once a person was taught by a chassidisher teacher, then no matter what place and what environment he finds himself in, and no matter what lowly state he reaches in the awe of Heaven, the roots that his teacher implanted within him remain intact. They will have their influence.”

49. Influencing – or being influenced?

My father continued: “You yourselves know many examples of individuals born of chassidisher parents, who through various circumstances were torn away from their homes and thrust into foreign environments, alienated from Judaism and alienated from Jews. Despite all that, what their chassidisher teacher once implanted within them lives on within them, and there is still hope that they will yet become Jews of the kind who observe the commandments in practice.

“What I said above about free choice is true so long as one’s children are young, and one can educate and guide them. Once they are grown up, one no longer has free choice.

“There are parents who ought to be thankful that their children do not force their hand, for in fact if one does not influence one’s children, one becomes (G‑d forbid) influenced by them, and in any case the influence exerted by the members of one’s family grows ever stronger. Everything, for better or for worse, proceeds by ordered stages, and this is true too of the influence exerted on a person by the members of his family. Ceasing to influence, one next becomes influenced — to the point that the lifestyle of one’s family becomes appealing.

Yeshivah students, by contrast, are children of choice: there one can choose.”

50. See your World now

That was what I wanted to tell you for completeness’ sake.49 Now I will tell you the rest of what my father said on this subject on Purim, 5672 (1912).

“Chassidisher businessmen and chassidisher magnates,” he began, “ought to study Chassidus. Then they will understand that when one donates money for tzedakah one is doing a favor not to someone else, but to oneself.

“When it comes to tzedakah in general, and particularly when it comes to the support of Torah study, one should not rely on one’s children, nor should one delay.

“A man once visited my father (the Rebbe Maharash) in order to consult with him as to how to arrange his affairs after his passing. His intention had been that a certain part of his wealth should be set aside for what people call oif olamos.50

“My father told him: ‘As to the olamos-money, take note of the phrase, Olamcha tir’eh bechayecha — See your World (olam) in your lifetime.51 One should give away one’s olamos-money during one’s lifetime; one should see it oneself and enjoy its benefits.’”

My father (the Rebbe Rashab) concluded: “By the avodah of studying ‘one passage in the morning and one passage in the evening,’52 and by supporting Torah scholars, who are the children of one’s choice, businessmen can ‘take’ Atzmus, the very Essence of the Almighty.”

51. Heavenly currency

Fulltime scholars who engage in the study of Chassidus, however, have a completely different means of ‘taking’ Atzmus. Their means of ‘taking’ Atzmus is specifically through their comprehension of the Torah. This fact underlies the statement that “no thought can apprehend Him”53 — “but He may be apprehended through re’usa deliba, the innermost desire of the heart.”54

Re’usa deliba is heavenly currency that is used for the direct compensation of a person who toils mightily in grasping a G‑dly concept. When he exerts his brain exceedingly in the study of a subject, seeking to master it and have it fully integrated in his mind, and when he then invests laborious effort in his davenen, he is enabled from Above to ‘grasp’ Atzmus.

In fact all the attainments of Chassidus, whether in the comprehension of concepts or in avodah, are secured only through exertion. Exertion is needed even for a chassidisher story, if one seeks to extract from it lessons in haskalah and avodah.

That was what I wanted to recount as an introduction to the subject which now (with G‑d’s help) stands before us.55